Person removing maskPhoto: Stock 4you (Shutterstock)

The CDC has updated theirs Guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated. Vaccinated people no longer have to wear a mask indoors, unless certain rules require it, the CDC announced today. For example, one company still requires you to wear a mask, and you still need to mask yourself on public transit and in certain other scenarios. The list of things to safely do when fully vaccinated is now the green light.

You are still considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after your last intake (your second intake from Pfizer or Moderna, or your only intake of the J&J vaccine).

Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or social distancing

The CDC summarizes the latest updates as follows:

  • Update fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or physical distance in any setting unless required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidelines , required
  • Update that fully vaccinated individuals cannot test after known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional facility, detention center, or homeless shelter

A new infographic is all green light for unmasked vaccinated individuals in a variety of settings that are considered “less safe” or “least safe” for those who are not yet fully vaccinated. Until now, vaccinated people have been advised to wear a mask and consider some of these scenarios less safe.

For example, the CDC judges that vaccinated people can now safely attend a crowded outdoor event, a full capacity church service, or a high-intensity indoor exercise class.

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Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks when visiting others

Previously, the CDC said that if you are vaccinated, you can spend time indoors with low-risk, unvaccinated people from a single household or with vaccinated people who like you. These instructions are now gone.

The CDC’s guiding principles are that the risk to a vaccinated person is “minimal” and that the vaccinated person presents a “reduced risk” for an unvaccinated person.

While it is possible for one vaccinated person to pass COVID on to others, it is very unlikely. Similarly, the vaccines seem to protect well enough against the known variants that are spreading, but it is possible that a new variant may appear that defies the protection we have from vaccines.

In most cases, you don’t need to quarantine or get tested

If you’re around someone who tested positive for COVID but was fully vaccinated at the time, the CDC says you don’t need to be tested or quarantined while you’re still feeling fine.

If you develop symptoms, consider the possibility that you may have COVID and from there follow normal guidelines, including testing. The exception to this rule is if you live in a group like a nursing home or correctional facility. If so, the CDC recommends that you stay away from others for 14 days and get tested.

Which rules still apply?

People who have not been vaccinated, including children, should continue to mask themselves and keep their distance from others as they have done before.

Businesses can still require you to wear a mask, and federal law mandating masks for public transportation (including air travel) continues to apply. If your state or region requires masks, those laws still apply.

The new CDC guidelines only apply to non-healthcare facilities. You should therefore continue to plan to wear a mask in places like hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes.

Things can change

The guidelines don’t state how long your protection from the vaccine should be considered as we don’t know yet. The CDC also notes that we are still learning how well the vaccines protect against the variants and how well they keep people who are vaccinated from transmitting the virus to others. As we learn more about these three things, the guidelines may be updated to reflect new knowledge.

The CDC director indicated This new guide for summer camps and travel is coming soon.

Does this new guide actually make us safer?

There’s a lot to argue about here. One possibility is for people who are not vaccinated to claim they are in order to be able to walk around maskless. On the other hand, when masks are no longer needed in so many settings, the controversy over who is a mask wearer and who is an anti-masker may ease somewhat.

When people who are not vaccinated take off their masks, people who are vaccinated are not at great risk. But those who can’t be vaccinated, like children, and people at higher risk, like people with certain medical conditions, may be at greater risk. The CDC appears to be relying on declining case numbers and increasing vaccination rates to justify changing the guidelines.

Just because you can remove your mask doesn’t mean you have to. Immunocompromised people You may want to continue the masking even after they are fully vaccinatedand anyone who is still concerned about risk can choose to do so, too.

This post was first published in March 2021 and updated on May 13, 2021 when the CDC announced that vaccinated people can do without a mask in most indoor spaces.